Cabarrus County teachers want a say in returning to in-person learning

Cabarrus County teachers want a say in going to in-person learning

CABARRUS COUNTY, N.C. — Cabarrus County is set to go back to school for Plan B next week, which is a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning.

Channel 9 has learned that teachers in the high-risk category who do not want to return to the classroom are being told to retire or find a new job.

Several people came before the Board of Education Monday night during public comment to raise concerns that teachers with serious health concerns have been denied an option to stay virtual.

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“I know not everyone is scared of this virus,” said Elizabeth Kingaby, daughter of a Cabarrus County teacher. “Not everyone has to be, but high-risk teachers and those of us who love them are terrified.”

Kingaby pleaded to the board to make accommodations for teachers who are in the high-risk category.

“Your denial of her and teachers like her is discriminatory,” she said. “There are teachers like her that have major preexisting conditions that make catching this virus inequitably dangerous. I beg of you, please, please, consider the discriminatory impact of across-the-board denial of teaching from home accommodations.”

Paula Yost, chair of the Cabarrus County Protection and Fatality Team, said teachers haven’t been given a valid explanation for the denials of requests for accommodations.

“I believe that’s only 5% to 7% of our county’s teachers,” Yost said. “I think the reason for that is that it’s being cited as part of the CARES Act. But I don’t think that can be accurate, because I don’t think the CARES Act can overcome the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

She said it needs to be a concern for the district, not only for the health of the teachers but for the health of the students.

“I think that certainly goes to mental health and child welfare, and the ability for all of us to go back to school safely,” Yost said. “I mean, certainly, we do not want a class of young children mourning the death of their teacher. We don’t want our teachers to die. I don’t think anyone wants that.”

Community members questioned why the district hasn’t assigned high-risk teachers to continue teaching in the all-virtual academy rather than having to teach in person.

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Teachers said they want to continue doing what they love but not at the expense of their lives.

“These aren’t minor issues but truly life-and-death health issues,” said resident Kristel Swayze. “They shouldn’t have to choose between their job and their health.”

The district has not said how many teachers, if any, have been given accommodations to work remotely.

The board didn’t discuss the issue at the meeting because it was not on the agenda.

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